Parent clarifies intentions after tense school meeting
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Though a group of parents attended a meeting of the Aspen School Board Tuesday night to demand a change in district policies, the crowd was not looking to oust district Superintendent Tom Farrell, some attendees say.
Aspen resident Lynn DeBoer penned a letter to The Aspen Times Wednesday to clarify statements she made during Tuesday’s meeting. The parents addressed the school board in order to open lines of communication, not to place blame on district officials, DeBoer said.
“I did not state that Tom Farrell has encouraged complacency,” DeBoer wrote. “The complacency is owned by many of us, myself included. I have been involved in many other aspects [of the district] and receive board minutes, but Tuesday evening was the first school board meeting I have ever attended. How can a school board be enthused and encouraged when people don’t attend and give their input?”
The best way to feed community input through the district could be the establishment of a type of “district accountability committee,” which a few parents have volunteered to join, DeBoer said. The committee, which school-board members have encouraged, could help correct the lack of communication between parents and the schools, DeBoer said.
“There is a group of concerned parents wanting to begin dialogue with the school board with things they think are important,” she said.
Though a few residents arrived at Tuesday’s meeting looking for a replacement superintendent, DeBoer noted that the issue was more about the idea of frequent evaluation for district officials, not Farrell in particular.
“The deal with the other night is that his contract is up for a renewal, and we just want to make sure there aren’t automatic rollovers on things,” DeBoer said. “We want to make sure people perform at their best, and it was really more about that and not people going in to get Tom.
“I’ve enjoyed a really good relationship with Tom Farrell, but there’s always room for improvement.”
The board visit was not a way to yank Farrell’s contract while the superintendent is on sabbatical, DeBoer said.
“It was unfortunate that this was addressed with him out of town,” she said. “The school board has an agenda, so therefore you address. It wasn’t about any grassroots effort to oust Tom by any means.
“I noticed that the people who seemed negative in their comments really had the best in their intentions. They just care deeply.”
Was public comment aimed at criticizing middle school programs?
“There are certain points that could use some improvements just like anything else,” DeBoer said, “but I completely appreciate the middle school and teachers – there are things that I couldn’t do.”
DeBoer, along with school-board member Alice Davis, said the meeting seemed to end on a positive note after starting with derogatory comments about school officials and district programs. Both sides of the issue seemed to find interest in establishing “a trusting and open dialogue with the school board and the administration” to avoid such arguments in the future, they said.
Davis also said she talked to several parents to pass on information about a number of school-related meetings held on a regular basis. Hopefully, it will ensure better attendance for these types of meetings, she said.
“The fine arts was the only linkage meeting with the community that we had a good showing of people,” Davis said.
Farrell, who is currently on sabbatical while he earns a master’s degree, is expected to return to the office later this week for his monthly update on district affairs.
Meanwhile, a discussion on Farrell’s contract and year-end evaluation has been postponed until next Thursday. Davis said the volume of comments at Tuesday’s meeting took up time allotted for other agenda issues, moving board members to shift items, including the evaluation discussion, to next week.
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